2008 | 44 | 2 | 179-196
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Linguistic Replacement in the Movies

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In this paper, I discuss the use of the English language in movie dialogues where, logically, other languages would have been used by the fictional characters. A shared characteristic of many Hollywood movies (as well as countless other fictional narratives, written or performed) is the notion of linguistic replacement. Even when the depicted story would realistically have taken place in a different linguistic setting, the language(s) are replaced by the base language of narration; in my case, English. Using a taxonomy of semiotic strategies proposed by Petr Mareš as a point of departure, I discuss examples of linguistic replacement from a corpus of twelve recent, commercially successful Hollywood movies with European and American settings. I argue that even though the different strategies (e.g. the use of L2 accents or the presence of the replaced language in filmed writing) fulfill more complex symbolic functions than that of compensatory realism, there has been a recent shift away from linguistic replacement altogether.
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  • University of Zurich
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